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Toby Flood: 'Horrible and nasty' duo made difference for England

By Liam Heagney
England pair Ollie Chessum and George Martin (Photo by Hans van der Valk/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Toby Flood has hailed the influence of Leicester duo Ollie Chessum and George Martin in firing up England in the Guinness Six Nations.

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Steve Borthwick’s squad enjoyed a March renaissance which saw them upset the double Grand Slam-chasing Ireland and come within a late penalty kick of winning away in France and finishing in second place.

Chessum started the tournament as the second row partner to Maro Itoje. However, with Martin making his return from injury as a round three replacement against Scotland, Borthwick decided to shift Chessum to blindside for the closing two matches so that Martin could be included as a second row starter.

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The decision worked a treat as Chessum and Martin flourished in those games and their performances have now been acclaimed by Flood, the retired England out-half, who told OLBG: “They do look to the manor born.

“I saw on social media about Ollie’s output on a Wattbike. There were raised eyebrows at the incredible things he was doing. Athletically he is a freak. He is the natural heir to Courtney Lawes.

Six Nations

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Ireland
5
4
1
0
20
2
France
5
3
1
1
15
3
England
5
3
2
0
14
4
Scotland
5
2
3
0
12
5
Italy
5
2
2
1
11
6
Wales
5
0
5
0
4

“I remember seeing Martin in the corridors at Leicester and I was talking to Matt Smith, an old teammate who was the academy coach at the club. Matt doesn’t give out praise easily, but he pointed at George and said, ‘He’s proper.’

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“The pair of them provide the grunt and just whack people. They are horrible and nasty in the best possible meaning. You have to have that when you come across big packs like France. You need to have people who can repeatedly go to the well. They really look serious. You can sense when someone has got it and they do have it.”

Flood claimed that the selection of both Chessum and Martin as starters allowed Maro Itoje to contribute better than he had done in February. “Maro was difficult and mischievous; he looked like he was beginning to enjoy his rugby again.

“Those two playing as they did free up Maro to go about his business and not worry about other parts of his game he might not be so proficient at.”

Flood, meanwhile, compared the influence of George Ford as the No10 as similar to the effect of football’s Mo Salah with Liverpool. “I have always been a huge fan of George’s. He is a fantastic player. He is slight so people will target him, but his ability in terms of understanding the game is up there with the best.

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“He is another coach on the field. They talked about Jordan Henderson being that for Liverpool before he left, telling everyone what to do and people asking him. Mo Salah would be very similar.

“George still has time on his side. He has only just turned 31. He can easily make another Rugby World Cup. To have him in amongst that squad with his knowledge and with Marcus Smith as back-up, they have quality and the luxury of two players who are very, very good.”

Flood named Tommy Freeman as his breakthrough England player and Ben Earl as his England player of the tournament, while he named Ireland out-half Jack Crowley as his top player overall.

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“Tommy Freeman just looks natural at international level, a player who can fit in incredibly well. He looked like he didn’t miss a beat. He looked like somebody very much at home in the international arena. He didn’t look worried about the expectations.

“There were question marks about Ben before the tournament about whether he was big enough and powerful enough as a No8, but his feet, movement and ability to beat a man were outstanding. He was just so consistent.”

Regarding his best overall pick, Flood explained: “I have a big soft spot for Thomas Ramos but it is hard to look past Ireland and Jack Crowley who fitted into Johnny Sexton’s shoes very comfortably. He was impressive and managed with ease what everyone felt was going to be a difficult transition.”

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1 Comment
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Tom 119 days ago

Martin is exceptional

Chessum is a very talented player who I think has struggled to make a physical impact in the second row but with the extra space at 6 he's been impressive. I really hope they don't put him back in the second row though, England look so much better with 2 big strong locks.

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Jon 3 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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